By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
Temporary centers that offer low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration to those affected by flooding from Tropical Storm Hermine are scheduled to close next week in Belton, Fort Worth and Round Rock.
The center in Belton, located at the downtown courthouse, will shut down on Thursday.
SBA spokesman Richard Jenkins said Thursday the Disaster Loan Outreach Center in Belton had seen more than 243 people pass through its doors since it opened Nov. 10.
The center in Fort Worth saw 140 potential clients, and the center in Round Rock saw 330.
Most of those visitors came soon after the center opened, and traffic has dropped off, Jenkins said. In the past week, "only a handful" of visitors have walked through the centers.
"It's quite common for us to open centers and then close them as the need reduces," he said. "Those numbers drop off dramatically at the center, you go down to a couple a day, and we balance the service with the need to watch expenditures in these lean times."
Jenkins said, however, that those interested can still apply online or by phone for disaster loans for property damage until Jan. 10.
Jenkins said of the 126 homeowners who took applications from the centers, 71 have returned them to the SBA. So far, the SBA has approved $1.6 million in loans, he said.
Dennis Baker, the director of the Bell County Office of Emergency Management, said though the stream of people visiting the loan center has tapered off, even before the office was fully set up, there were three people waiting to talk to representatives.
"We feel like the people that wanted to have already been by," he said.
Now the county office's efforts are focused on the Bell County Long Term Recovery Committee, a subcommittee of Mid-Tex VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters). That group hopes to help organize the funds available from charitable organizations.
"Through that committee, we're making sure we don't have a duplication of funds, and we're making it go as far as possible and help as many people as possible," he said.
The Belton Disaster Loan Outreach Center is at 101 E. Central Ave. in Belton. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until Thursday.
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners for damaged or destroyed homes.
Up to $40,000 is available to repair or replace other personal property, according to information from the SBA.
Some businesses are also eligible for loans. Interests rates for the SBA loans are as low as 2.5 percent for homeowners and renters.
To get SBA information about applying for loans, contact the Customer Service Center by calling toll-free at 1 (800) 659-2955, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA's website at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.